By Denise M. Roberts
One of the single most important aspects of becoming successful is realizing that one person cannot do it all and cannot make everything happen to their satisfaction. The ability to create, inspire and manage a team, to make your vision theirs, is the hallmark of great business leaders. But that’s not all it takes, of course. Humans, being the unique creatures that they are, don’t fit well into molds and don’t readily accept labels. Titles, yes…responsibilities…usually. Recognizing these limitations can be difficult but is wholly necessary in assembling the right people for the right tasks. The same holds true in the general work setting. Not all employees are created equal. And good bosses know this very well. That’s what makes them good at what they do and why they will achieve success sooner rather than later.
Get the right people in place
There are a multitude of studies, reports, books and programs geared toward professional development, some of which are highly regarded and deployed at major companies and institutions. Managers and supervisors are often asked or directed to take part in development programs to enhance the level of knowledge and competency, as well as the company’s position as a valuable and forward-thinking enterprise. This works well in all environments when program directors or managers are able to adequately determine which personalities are best suited to this type of enhancement. Make no mistake about it, not everyone is receptive (I know about that already), positive (I don’t want to do that) or engaged (I’m too busy) enough to help the company derive the benefits it desires. These are tools and they must be put in the hands of those who can use them to the fullest advantage. Making the most of the talent pool can often be overlooked when problems arise. The immediate need to rectify a situation doesn’t allow time to try to figure out who can best resolve issues and problems. The successful businessman has taken the time to evaluate who is most capable for each position in the company, before there is a critical need to act.
We are in a transitional generation phase that is creating concerns about the quality of the work force in general. Work ethic standards are changing in ways most didn’t expect. A generational clash is in full swing throughout the country, with younger people viewing their career prospects as dismal and facing a situation in which they must accept less than what they want. This creates conflict between them and older, longer-term employees who worked their way up the proverbial ladder and don’t understand the seeming lack of will to ‘earn their stripes’ that newer employees project. How does the business owner navigate this generation gap without losing valuable talent from both sides? No easy answers are out there but wise businessmen always find a way to overcome such problems. It might take more aggressive recruitment, better personality assessment, even a review of some goals. Or it might take the hard choices that smart businessmen are willing to make (such as overhauling staffing) to retain the best of both groups. There’s little room for timidity in success!
Know what’s going on
Ask anyone you believe to be a successful person what their views are and you can learn valuable lessons on the spot. It’s why networking continues to be one of the most reliable tools in management. Not only do successful business people offer their wisdom, they also listen to what others say, then evaluate it ac- cording to their needs. An ever-expanding network of contacts brings lucrative opportunities more often than reliance on the stand-by pool of known providers, suppliers, consultants, engineers, etc. Standing in place, waiting for the right opportunity to present itself, may result in the opposite effect. Tapping into the broader range of knowledge can be just the edge that ensures new contracts and business prospects. But more than networking is needed. Another attribute of the successful is having current knowledge of the global marketplace. Whether one reads the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg or other highly valued and comprehensive business media, knowing who is a major player and what is happening in the world is pivotal to making the best decision at the right time. Want to expand into a vertical market? Do your research and use the many informational tools available to make the presentation more amenable to the Board. Is it time to test the export approach? Where will your products have the best chance of gaining market share? If it works here, it won’t always work somewhere else, and lack of credible information can sink a project faster than a torpedo. Find out before you engage in the long process of becoming an exporter. Most important of all, do you have the right people to handle these types of projects? Again, nobody can do it all. There must be a cohesive effort involved to ensure the best outcome.
Where the deals are
Business of any kind is always highly competitive and sometimes hostile. Turning negatives into positives in the corporate world can require a delicate balance of personality, professionalism and the willingness to compromise. “Most deals are made over dinner or on the golf course, not in the boardroom.” I’ve heard this over and over again and the premise makes perfect sense. Taking the opportunity to meet and greet and create a relaxed atmosphere is often more conducive to deal-making than an intensity-filled, high-powered meeting. The highly successful take advantage of every chance to personalize a situation in order to bring a sense of camaraderie to the table and disarm the skeptical, thereby effecting a better outcome. Good employees who have the advantage of seeing their leaders in action and can learn these traits often become good leaders in their own right.
Success is a heady promise to be fulfilled by the brave and tenacious. It can be shared across the board to ensure its longevity or held tightly like a personal treat. A truly competent team should be allowed to take part in that ownership as well. And that’s what makes a good leader better. He knows he can’t do it all by himself.